Small Businesses, Human Resources, and COVID-19

Who would have thought at the beginning of 2020 the human resource profession would be where we are today? Navigating rolling lock downs, COVID testing, 20 million jobs lost, all while balancing remote working for adults with remote learning for children. It has been the toughest challenge in not only our careers, but also in the careers of the employees and organizations we work to support and serve.

Arguably, small businesses have been hit the hardest. According to the Small Business Credit Survey, which released its 2019 results in April 2020, 76% of small firms saw their input costs increase over the prior year and 40% reported falling profit margins. 66% of employers faced financial challenges in the prior 12-months and 17% of firms would have to close if they experienced a two-month revenue loss. And this is all BEFORE COVID-19.

In a COVID-19 world, small businesses were some of the last to receive PPP funding, if they received it at all. Public companies such as Ruth’s Chris Steak House and J. Alexander’s, both restaurant groups with annual profits of $42.2M and $8.8M received $20M and $15.1M in PPP money, respectively. Meanwhile, a bakery in Maryland that could have used $23,000 to stay open, received nothing. (

In a world where employer firms with less than 100 employees account for a third of the workforce, and they continue to struggle to stay open, how do they support HR functions? If we’re being honest, it’s difficult. Many organizations under 100 employees had a difficult time justifying a full time HR position before COVID. Simply due to budgetary constraints, many smaller organizations have either cross-trained positions to handle HR, marketing, general office support, and payroll or, simply don’t have an HR representative at all. Don’t get me wrong, cross-training is fantastic and promises to be utilized even more as we work toward a post-COVID world. My fear lies with the organizations that completely lack HR representation and the possible hiccups they face in addition to everything else.

So, how can ARK help those organizations? It is vital to balance the regulatory and legal needs of the organization with the cultural and emotional needs of the employee. On one hand, companies are up against challenges such as navigating pending liability shields, COVID-related child care leave, and remote working policies; many of which change weekly, if not daily. On the other hand, recognizing the importance of driving employee engagement, ensuring a safe and clean environment for workers and customers, and continuing to maintain employee morale and overall mental health. The scales must be balanced.

ARK has a network of certified SPHR and PHR professionals that are available to assist organizations of all sizes in need of human resources solutions. From reviewing current practices and documenting processes to serving as a full outsourced HR consultant on a long-term basis. Our team is here to ensure your human resource solution is a strategic partner doing its part to power your organization’s stellar performance.

Thomas Ryan-Lawrence, SPHR

Thomas is one of the Founders of ARK Leadership and serves as its VP, Operations. He currently lives in Atlanta, GA with his husband, Chris and their son, Noah.

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